Monday, March 29, 2010


A week or so ago, I went away for a 5 day women's renewal in Paraguay.  It was wonderful.  While I was gone, my husband became MR. MOM.  Not, mr. mom, but MR. MOM.  I mean, I came back and my house was cleaned, my baby was on a schedule, and (get this) my closet and clothes drawers were neatly organized.  Where is this person when I'm around?

Anyway, Giovanni was evidently happy as a clam while I was gone.  Last week, however, he was pretty whiney and wanted me to constantly hold him.  Friday, the day that I was supposed to do part 8 of "Our Story", he was a super-grouch and would only refrain from screaming if he was sitting in my lap holding BOTH of my hands.  Yeah, fun.  So, didn't get to update my blog.

Saturday, we had an arts and crafts fair at our church building.  This is a new ministry that I will talk more about later.  Sunday, after a great house church time, we had the arts and crafts sale again.

Also, my in-laws are arriving here in two days.  So, of course, I must do every household cleaning and decorating project that I have been putting off for months.  Maybe I'll show some before and after pictures soon.

I guess the point of this post is to let you know what's going on with me and why I haven't been able to post much.  Right this minute, I have a squirmy 18 month old in my lap pulling up my shirt, looking at my tummy, and giggling.  Not sure what that means.

So, HOPE to see you here again, soon!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

March 25, 1991

19 years ago, our first child was born.  We never wanted to know the sex of our first 4 kids.  We let it be a surprise.  I remember when she was actually being born, Kevin saw her dark hair and said excitedly "it's a boy!".  I was worried that he would be disappointed when the rest of her came out and she wasn't a boy, but he was smitten, and from that time on, was in love with his little girl.

We named her Bronwyn Kate.  Bronwyn was a name I had always liked, and when I first mentioned it to Kevin, before we were even pregnant, he said "no way - too weird".  But when we seriously started choosing names, he wanted an unusual name - so Bronwyn it was.  Kate is after me (Kathryn Benay) and my mom (Jane Kathryn).

Anyway, Bronwyn was born to these two young parents:

We actually weren't that young - I was 27 when she was born - but we were definitely inexperienced.  Bronwyn, however, was a great baby and toddler and made our job pretty easy.

Oh yeah, except for the daily colic she had for about the first few months of her life.  When she was first born, she would only cry if she was hungry and that was every 4 hours.  It was only a little whimper to let us know it was time to eat.  (as if I, the new mom, wasn't hovering over her crib and watching the clock...). Until one Sunday night when she was about 3 1/2 weeks old and we were sitting in church.  It wasn't close to time for her to eat, but she just looked at me and started to cry.  We tried to calm her, but she cried harder.  We took her outside and walked her around for a bit.  Didn't really work.  Finally she fell asleep as her perplexed parents wondered what had happened.

That was the start of her colic.  She cried almost every afternoon for several months.  We tried stroller rides, feeding her bottles, baths, etc.  It was kind of stressful there for a while.  Everyone had some advice, and I was reading every baby book I could get my hands on trying to figure out what to do.  We finally discovered what would help her.  When she started her afternoon crying session, we learned a way to hold her so her stomach was against ours, and we would bounce and bounce until she went to sleep.  That made for some sore arms and backs, but it was better than the crying.

We also discovered that she loved her baby swing.  We had bought the swing from our good friends, the Walls, and their daughter Karlye.  (yes she now has a baby of her own - yikes!  we're old!).   It was an old-fashioned kind that you wound up.  The winding made a loud noises and then it would click-click-click it's way down until it wouldn't swing anymore.  Compared to today's swings, let's just say it gave you a good ride!  My kids loved it!

Bronwyn took many a nap in that swing.  I remember wondering if it was bad for her, and calling Kevin at work wondering if it was OK for her to be in the swing so much.  He would say, "Is she crying? (no)  Is she happy? (yes)  Then leave her in it!"  I, in my mother guilt mode would still worry about it, but as you can see, she turned out just fine.  And boy did it help us get through that colic stage!

After the colic passed, Bronwyn really was an easy baby.  She was good natured and easy to take care of.  Of course, she had our undivided attention - maybe that had something to do with it!  But it was also her personality - easy to get along with, laid back, compliant, and a fast learner.

It's easy to look back on the kind of parent you were to your first child and remember the things you did wrong, just because you didn't know any better.  It seems like I worried so much about Bronwyn accomplishing milestones and moving on to the "next stage".  But I guess that's just part of being a first time parent.  I have really loved being Bronwyn's mom for the last 19 years, but I am really looking forward to being her mom and her friend for the next 19 years.

Bronwyn, hope you had a wonderful birthday.  I love you!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Leni's Experience

We have mentioned on our family blog about our sister Leni taking a job working for a woman in Argentina.  This woman had cancer and was here in Porto Alegre for treatment, received a massage from Leni, and after getting to know her a little, invited her to work for her for 3 months.  Actually, she insisted that Leni go with her.  Leni prayed about this, and felt peace about taking this job.  She felt that she would be sharing the love of God with this woman, and hopefully bring her to faith in God and Christ.  Here is what happened:

Leni left here and went, not to Argentina where the woman lives, but to Punta del Este, Uruguay.  The woman owns an apartment there and was staying there during the warm tourist season.  When Leni arrived, she met Miriam, who also worked for the woman as a housekeeper.  Not surprisingly, Leni made fast friends with Miriam and found out that she was being mistreated by her employer and was missing her 3 children.  She had not seen them since she began working at the apartment, because she was never given a day off to go visit them.  Leni began to pray with Miriam and share her daily Bible devotional with her.  Miriam was very grateful.

Meanwhile, Leni's relationship with her employer was becoming difficult.  Leni went there to give massages, help the woman with her medications and make sure that her eating habits were good.  She discovered that the woman drank often, which is a huge no-no when taking chemotherapy.  The woman had violent mood swings and Leni never knew what to expect from her.  One day the woman was glad for Leni and Miriam to pray together, and the next day she prohibited it.  Leni continued to pray and study on her own and shared with Miriam whenever she was able to.

Miriam found out about our simple house churches, and she liked the idea so much.  She was disillusioned with some of the churches she had been a part of in the past or that she had seen in her community.  Leni began talking to her about becoming a Christian and being baptized.  Miriam decided that she did want to accept Christ.  They began praying for a way for her to be baptized.  The apartment was located in an upper-class beach town, surrounded by a beautiful ocean.  But they were limited in transportation and with their employer forbidding them to pray together, what would she say about a baptism?

Their opportunity came when their employer went to Argentina for a cancer treatment.  Leni found out that there was a swimming pool at the apartment building, and one night she took Miriam there and baptized her. We are so thankful for our new sister in Christ!

Soon after, Leni was abruptly "let go" by her employer and she returned to Porto Alegre.  She will be getting in touch with Miriam as soon as possible to help her find a church family, probably in Montevideo.

We praise God that Leni accomplished the mission that God sent her on.  She thought that it was to help the sick woman, which she did to the best of her ability.  But, God used her in an unexpected way to bring to Christ a person that she didn't even know about before. 

Would you please pray for these things?
1.  Praise God for the way that He used Leni.
2.  That Miriam would be able to receive her salary and leave to go visit her children and that she would be able to make contact with Leni.
3.  For a church family for Miriam.
4.  For peace for Leni.  Working for this lady was, and continues to be, very stressful for her.

"But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?  And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”  Romans 10: 14-15

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Little Maurício

This is Maurício.  We call him Mau-Mau (rhymes with cow-cow).  He is the son of Freitas and Auristela who are part of our house church.  Mau-Mau is Giovanni's best friend.

Last Sunday, we divided our house church into three groups.  The men met at Freitas and Auristela's hardware store.  They have been opening the store on Sunday because they need to increase their business.  Their store is in our neighborhood.  They read and discussed scripture together and even included the owner of the bakery next door.  One good thing about house church:  it's mobile.

The women met around our dining room table.  We had a wonderful time of sharing, praying together and fellowship.  We took the Lord's Supper together.

The kids had a Bible study in the living room.  Ansley told Anderson, Carys and Maurício the story of the angel announcing Jesus's birth to Mary.  She had some simple little puppets that she used to tell the story.  After the story, she asked what they wanted to do - play or watch a video or color.  Maurício looked at Ansley and sweetly said, "I want to take the Lord's Supper."

In our house church we don't exclude children or anyone from taking the Lord's Supper.  Everyone is included.  We believe that's what Jesus would do if it were his house.

So, Ansley went in and fixed some juice and crackers for them.  She then told them that before they took it, they had to say one thing that they loved.
Ansley said, "I love my family."
Anderson (in true form) said, "The whole planet."
Maurício quietly said, "Carlos e Stela."  (which means Carlos Freitas, his dad, and Auristela, his mom.)
Then he added, "and Lucky and Rex."  (our two dogs.)

Maurício is a sweetheart and his simple love for the Lord and his family blessed all of us on Sunday.  I expect great things from this little guy.

Monday, March 22, 2010

I'm Back!

I spent a wonderful week of renewal last week at Come Before Winter in Paraguay.  Come Before Winter is a 5 day conference to encourage, teach, and uplift missionary women.  I absolutely loved it and although I am physically super tired, I am spiritually strong and hopeful.

We studied and prayed over Psalm 103.  I learned so much.

We were given quiet times to just reflect on the Word and hear from God.  I did.

We spent time wonderful worship times together and I don't think the angels in heaven could sound any better than we did.

We spent time visiting and sharing, and I have never been so proud to be a part of any group of women. These ladies are truly beautiful - from the inside out.

They asked us to only take pictures during free time and I was having so much fun I didn't take hardly any.  But they had people taking pictures and will put them up on a website later, so I will definitely be telling you more about my week when these other pictures are available.

The Come Before Winter team for everything you did for all of us.
My missionary sisters for your friendship and example.
My husband and kids for letting me go.
Anyone who prayed for CbW or gave money to this ministry.  It was so worth it.
God - for all of it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Our Story - Part 7

(For parts 1-6, click here and scroll down.)

When Kevin first saw the magazine advertisement for joining a mission team, I agreed to look into it.  I acted like I was open to the idea, thinking that it would never really happen.  But time had passed, phone calls had been made, meetings had taken place, visits had been made......and it looked like this "thing" that I thought could never happen - might happen.

And I had to come face to face with my real feelings about all of this.  And my real feelings were: I didn't want to do it.  I had a vision of my life turning out a certain way.  It wasn't anything super specific.  Just a normal life.  Normal.  Not foreign, or far away, or insecure.  As I think back now, it seemed like I was pretty set on having a cute house.  Preferably a white house, with green shutters and maybe even a green roof.  It's embarrassing to me now to admit how concerned I was with a house, but I was.  I didn't want to live far away from our families.  I didn't want to experience another culture.  I didn't want to have an insecure financial future.  I didn't want to be a missionary.

But, it seemed like God wanted this of me.  I didn't grow up using the term "call" in relation to what a person does.  Like - "God called me to the mission field".  I still don't know if I believe that God gives some kind of special call or urging to missionaries.  I believe that he has a job for each one of us - something that he specifically asks us to do.  And it seemed like he was specifically asking us, our family, to move to Porto Alegre, Brazil.

Why did that particular magazine ad attract Kevin's attention?  Why not some article about keeping foster kids, or attending a worship seminar?  Was God working through that magazine?  In my Community Bible Study that year, we were studying Romans.  When we studied chapter 4 about the faith of Abraham, there was a paragraph in our study guide that went something like this, "Abraham showed tremendous faith by going where God wanted him to go.  By faith he took his family to a land that God would show him. Is God asking you to step out in faith and go to a new place?"  As I read those words, my heart just burned inside my chest.  There was an article about Brazil in the newspaper, a report about Brazil on the radio.   It seemed like God was trying to tell us something.

Or was it just a coincidence?  I couldn't find a single scripture that would encourage me to say "no" to this opportunity.  I would have a hard time saying "NO" to God if he was asking me to do something.  But was this really God talking to us?

Remember Gideon and the fleece?  Well, I kind of threw out some fleece.  In one of my prayers, I specifically prayed,  "God, if this is really you, if this is really what you are asking me to do, then please send some people to encourage me.  Because hardly anyone is giving me any encouragement to do this."  I was specifically thinking of my friends, who whenever I mentioned it, tried to help me think of ways to get out of doing it, or said things that scared me, or let me know that they would never do something like that.  I prayed this prayer out loud with Kevin one night.  Guess what happened?  The next 4 or 5 people that I talked to about Brazil had something encouraging to say.  The same friends who before were negative, all of a sudden said something positive and encouraging.  One girl, I specifically remember, just stared at me and said "You've just got to step out in faith."  She had never, ever said anything like that to me before.

OK, OK.  So maybe that was a "God" thing and maybe it was just a coincidence.  So I prayed again, "God if this is really you, then you have to work out the financial details."  Moving a family of 6 (at the time) to Brazil was not a small financial undertaking.  A while later, we received a large donation.  While this donation didn't cover all we would need, it was a HUGE head start and something that we had never expected or asked for.  OK, OK, another "God" thing.

It seemed that God was asking something of me.  And I would not tell him "no".  But my heart wasn't in it.  I was trying, but I was scared.  Scared to break out of my "normality", and do something different and unexpected.  Scared to go far away, leave our families, take our kids to a foreign culture....

One weekend, Kevin and I took a little mini trip to Jackson, Mississippi to spend some time together, just the two of us, to pray and talk about what to do.  At the end of that trip, I remember sitting on his lap and just crying as I prayed to God and told him that I knew He was asking me to do this, but that I didn't want to.  So, I just asked again, "God, you know how I feel about all of this, so if this is really from you, then you will have to change my heart."  At that point, I quit worrying about "wanting" or "not wanting".  I just tried to trust that if God wanted this from me, then he would prepare me in every way to do it.

He would take care of the money, of our kids, and of my dreams and desires.

I guess you know, since I am now in Brazil, that He did take care of all of that, and more.  When, months and months later, we moved away from our Mississippi town, and eventually got on a plane bound for Brazil, I had a peace that is unexplainable.  And I was excited.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My Mother-in-Law

(My mom, me and my mother-in-law, Marie, at Thanksgiving.)

Today is my mother-in-law's birthday.  Usually my husband writes something nice about her on our family blog, but this time I would like to do that.  I am so blessed to have such a great mother-in-law.  She has many wonderful qualities, but these are the things that I especially appreciate about her:

  • She is very hospitable.  She is always opening up her home to others for meals, celebrations, over-night stays, and even longer stays.  Our family has lived in their house at least 2 times.  When we visit, we make a royal mess of the place.  I always feel horrible about that, but she never complains - just enjoys us being there.

(Garrett's birthday last year - She made Mammy's Chocolate Cake - a family favorite.)

  • She has a servant heart.  She is always thinking of ways to make people happy.  She cooks food that she knows we like.  She gets up early and makes breakfast for our kids (which means I get to sleep in a little - love that!).  She is always trying to help out.

  • She always buys me a purse for Christmas.  A purse is something that I just don't buy for myself.  I can always count on her to give me a nice purse that I like.  Thanks for that!

(OK, I know this isn't a purse.  She also gave me a Snuggie for Christmas last year.  I am sticking out my tongue because Kevin didn't want me to get one, but she knew I wanted one anyway.)

  • She is a very supportive wife.  I have never heard her say anything bad about my father-in-law or put him down in any way at all.  She is a great example of a supportive wife who believes in her husband and builds him up.

(At the Memphis Zoo)

  • She is a strong Christian, and has always given of herself to others and the church.  

(At Thanksgiving with Anderson, Kevin's cousin, Matt, and Dylan, our nephew.)

  • She is a wonderful, fun, loving grandmother to my kids.  She always sends them little cards and candy on holidays, and does fun things with them when we are in the states.

(Memphis Zoo)
(Carys and Grandmommy made a gingerbread house together.)

  • And finally, she raised a wonderful young man who ended up being my husband.  He is loving, helpful, sweet, supportive, and always treats me with respect.  I owe that, in a great part, to his parents.

(Kevin with Peyton and Dylan, our nephews.)

Marie, I wish we could be there with you on your special day.  Thank you for being a great mother-in-law and for loving me and making me part of your family.  You are the best!
Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

New Look

I love little baby curls.  Most of our kids had some little curls when they were babies or toddlers.  Some more than others.

Before we left for our furlough last year, Giovanni got a haircut.  He looked cute.

When we got back to Brazil, his hair had grown out and he had some cute curls in the back.  We took him to get a haircut again and the lady said, "What about the curls?".  I said, "Cut the front and leave some of the curls."  So, that is what we did.

There comes a point in time when you let the boy's hair grow out and everyone, except the parents, is thinking, "What are they doing?  Why don't they just cut the boy's hair??"  I think the parents just don't want to part with the baby curls.

Then, slowly but surely that parents start realizing that it's time to say good-bye to the baby curls.

This had gotten out of hand:

So, here is Giovanni with his new big-boy look.  He looks so big and tall.  But so handsome.

We love him more and more everyday!

(P.S.  To any grandparents that may be reading this.  These pictures can be downloaded and put on your digital picture frame.  OR even better, you can come and visit and see him in person! )

Monday, March 8, 2010

March 8, 1999

On March 8th, 1999 God blessed our family with a spunky, sweet little girl named Carys.  The name "Carys" is Welsh, and means "love".  
(I don't look half-bad.  Epidurals are awesome, after it kicked in, I didn't feel a thing.)

Carys was born in Memphis, but we lived in Grenada, Mississippi.  We drove 2 hours to get to the doctor's office, with me having contractions.  She told me I wasn't "ready" yet, and to go back home.  I knew better and said, "I'm not going back home.  Home is two hours away."  So, she let me go on to the hospital, and what do you know, Carys was born that afternoon.
(Mammy is holding her - she said she had "black" eyes.  They are chocolatey brown.)

She was a beautiful baby - who looked NOTHING like me.  She still doesn't.  She has all the "Blume" features, and I have always thought that the person she looks most like in our family is her "papa", Kevin's dad.
(Same face, same expression - she is prettier though and still doesn't have a mustache.)

In the hospital, I think I mentioned that she was 100% Blume in her looks.  Then later, she started to cry and her mouth was BIG.  I said, "Man, she has a big mouth!".  My mom said, "You have a big mouth."  I'm not sure if that was her trying to make me feel good that at least ONE characteristic that Carys had came from me, or just making an observation about my big mouth.  Whatever the reason, I always giggle when I remember that and am happy to share the "big mouth" trait with Carys.  After all, big mouths make big SMILES!
(Please excuse my hair - it was incredibly windy that day.)

From the get-go, Carys wanted to be close to me or someone else in the family.  I was so looking forward to "resting" in the hospital.  I fed her, put her in her little bassinet and then decided to take a shower.  She would not stay in the bassinet.  I put her in bed with me and finally ended up taking off my pajama shirt and leaving it close beside her, so I could take a quick shower.  After a while of trying to sleep and her not letting me, I called the nurse, hoping that she would take her for a little while so I could rest.  The nurse, who looked to be about 20 years old, arrived, picked Carys up and said in a "baby" voice, "What are you doing, little one.  Are you scaring these nice people?"  I just took Carys back, and said thank you. I wanted to say, "No, she is not scaring me. She is my 4th baby.  I just want to rest!"  Oh, well.
(This picture has nothing to do with that story, I just think it is really funny.)

Garrett, our third baby, was SUPER laid back.  You could just put him somewhere and he would happily look around until he got hungry or fell asleep.  In my crazy brain, I thought that if the 3rd baby was like that, then the 4th would be even more so.  Um, wrong.  Carys wanted to be in on everything.  She wanted to be held or carried around. I think she didn't want to miss out on anything her big sisters and brother were doing.  She didn't crawl until she was 11 months old.  Then she crawled for 2 weeks, hating every minute of it, and started walking.  Bronwyn, Ansley and Garrett were walking, so she wanted to as well!
(One of my all-time favorite pictures.)

I have always thought of Carys as such a blessing.  I had a miscarriage the year before she was born, then God gave us this healthy baby girl.  She has always brought us joy, laughter, and fun.
(Love those dimples!)

Carys, I am so proud and happy to be your mom.  

Friday, March 5, 2010

Our Story - Part 6

(For parts 1-5 of this story, click here and scroll down.)

After we got in touch with Continent of Great Cities in 1999, we didn't hear from them again.  However, we still talked at home about the possibility of joining the Porto Alegre team, which was due to arrive in Brazil in 2002.  We actually ended up calling them - turns out they had forgotten to put our names in their computer system.  We scheduled a visit from one of their representatives, Ken Lewis.

Ken drove to Mississippi and had dinner with us and then talked with us and the kids for a long time about what all would be involved in actually joining the team.  He couldn't have been nicer and made us feel so comfortable.  He actually made it sound possible for our family to do this crazy thing.  One funny memory of that evening was us asking 3 year old Garrett to say the prayer before dinner.  He said, in his sweet quiet slow-talking way, "Dear God, thank you for the Backstreet Boys...."  We all nearly cracked up but were trying to make a good impression on Ken, so we held it in.  Ken just kept his head bowed and acted like it was totally normal.

After dinner, we sat down with Ken and his laptop and he showed us pictures of Porto Alegre.  It looked much more like a normal city than I had imagined.  He was very patient in talking to Bronwyn and Ansley about school in Brazil, and what life was like there.  After he left the next morning, the girls said that before Mr. Ken came they were scared, but after he talked to them they weren't scared anymore.

I can't really remember exactly what the next steps were in joining the team.  We met our future teammates, Kyle and Leslie Klein, at a half-way point and had a meal with them.  We had a little team get-together at our house one weekend and Albert Lemmons taught and prayed with us.  We went to some kind of seminar one weekend in Arkansas.  We filled out applications.

I think the reason that I can't remember many of these details is because I was dealing with some major turmoil in my heart.  Even though on the outside I was "moving forward", on the inside I was struggling.  You see, I had a dream.  A dream of my life the way I always thought it would be.  That dream involved a charming house, cute kids, a nice church, good friends, cookouts, piano lessons, little league, etc.  Very American.  It didn't involve a city in South America, foreign languages,  or strange customs.

How I got from that place of turmoil to where I ended up deserves a post on its own.  So I'll pick up here next week...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Independence - by guest blogger, Giovanni (age 18 mo.)

My mom fixes me eggs for breakfast.  I like them.  If she tries to help feed me, I grab her hand, growl, and move it away.

I am getting good with a fork.

It's important to open your mouth reeaallly wide when feeding yourself.

Using a fork requires intense concentration.....

so if you get tired of using it, this way works, too.